How to Automate Online Courses With ActiveCampaign

How to Automate Online Courses

This post has been contributed by AccessAlly, an ActiveCampaign Certified Consultant.

Two years ago, there was a prediction that customer experience would overtake both price and product as the key differentiator between brands…

In 2018, that prediction has come true.

And now, you’ve gotta hustle to make sure your online courses stand out from the competition.

Being the “bestselling course on the topic” is a great goal for any course creator. Unfortunately, it can also lead to the hamster wheel of exhaustion. Marketing, email check-ins, Facebook groups, and customer concerns to respond to…it’s all part of running a successful, profitable online course.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead of doing everything yourself, you can use smart automation strategies to run a profitable online course without running yourself ragged.

Smart automation means that
your tech tools are made to work together

When you’re building an online course, there’s the option of “done for you” sites like Teachable, Thinkific, and the like.

These are systems where you “borrow” or “rent” space to build an online course. Those solutions work well if you’re only offering one or two courses and have no interest in adding more granularity on how you release your content.

The downfall with using those tools is that they don’t offer the automation depth you need.

Here, I’m talking about automation like…

  • When someone signs up for a free course, they can log right into your members-only area, and get into the habit of returning to your site whenever they want to learn
  • When a client’s recurring subscription goes through, they’re automatically gifted 100 credits. These can be used to trade in as payment so that the client can access more material on your site.
  • Logged-in clients can make 1-click purchases (picture Amazon’s enticing yellow button here)
  • A website visitor who starts the checkout process but never finishes receives a follow up email sequence, encouraging them to come back and buy

In short: the done-for-you options (as great as they are) don’t let you create an online course system that sells itself.

For that, you need a tool that’s designed to integrate with ActiveCampaign.

An online course plugin can
work with your ActiveCampaign automation workflows

This is the fun part: walking into the smart tech tools that are actually designed to work with your ActiveCampaign automations. Tools that are built to scale because of their features and flexibility.

Some online course and membership plugins are designed to integrate with ActiveCampaign on a deep level and take advantage of all those powerful automation workflows so you’ll be able to do more, while working less.

Instead of creating an entirely separate membership site, these plugins work to “gate” the content on your website. That makes it easier to connect what’s happening on your website to information in your ActiveCampaign account (contacts, automations, tags, and all).

Here’s what an online course automated by ActiveCampaign (and a plugin) actually looks like.

How to automate online courses with ActiveCampaign

Step 1: Set up your ActiveCampaign account

If you haven’t yet, of course, set up your ActiveCampaign account.

Become familiar with the automation areas, and the tags. These are the two main pieces that you’ll use to automate your online course area.

Step 2: Install your plugin

Next, install your membership site plugin on your site. This should be a fairly straightforward process if you’ve chosen a plugin that’s designed to work with ActiveCampaign.

example of accessally course

This is a screenshot of the onboarding wizard for AccessAlly, a membership site plugin. This WordPress plugin uses your ActiveCampaign tags to control permission and automation in your online courses.

Step 3: Set up your courses

All of your courses are created inside your website…so have fun and get creative.

Take your time and have fun building out the course outline, then filling it with content that will impress your clients.

Once you have your courses ready to go, it’s time to automate it all with ActiveCampaign.

Step 4: Create Your Automations inside ActiveCampaign

If you’re already familiar with ActiveCampaign, you know that you can automate almost anything with the drag-and-drop builder.

Make a list of what you want automated, then build it out inside ActiveCampaign.

Here are some ideas to get started.

Example 1: A Free Course

If you’re offering a free course as a lead magnet, the automation setup inside ActiveCampaign is extremely simple:

  • The subscriber opts in
  • ActiveCampaign adds the “free course” permission tag to the user
  • ActiveCampaign tells your plugin to create a unique login for the user
  • ActiveCampaign sends out a welcome email, inviting the new subscriber to log in

The automation would look something like this:

automation for membership courses

That’s a fun, easy automation to build—and will impress your new subscribers, since it’s so easy for them to log right into the membership area and access the free course material.

Example 2: A Drip-Fed Course That Spans 3 Weeks

If you’re offering a multi-step course, you might want to release only one lesson at a time. So let’s say you’re offering a paid course that’s 3-weeks long, and you’d like a lesson to be released each week. In this case, the automation would look something like this:

  • Client purchases access to course through an order form, which adds a “Purchase” tag to their contact info. ActiveCampaign reads this, and knows it’s time to start the automation…
  • ActiveCampaign adds a tag to release the first course lesson
  • ActiveCampaign notifies your membership plugin of the change
  • A welcome email is sent to the new course student
  • (1 week delay)
  • ActiveCampaign adds a tag to release the second course lesson
  • ActiveCampaign notifies your membership plugin of the change
  • (1 week delay)
  • ActiveCampaign adds a tag to release the third course lesson
  • ActiveCampaign notifies your membership plugin of the change
  • After the student completes the course, they’re entered into an upsell automation to learn more about your other online courses….

course automation with webhook
course automation with webhook part 2

Of course, you can make it as simple or complex as you want, using ActiveCampaign’s automation capabilities to release course credits, trigger upsells, etc.

If you’re using a robust membership site plugin that’s designed to work with ActiveCampaign, your use of ActiveCampaign’s automations are really only limited by your imagination.

That’s the beauty of a true integration that’s meant to complement, not inhibit, a powerful marketing automation system.

ActiveCampaign: A system for growth

This is where ActiveCampaign allows you to go above and beyond anything a basic tool like Teachable or Thinkific would allow.

If you want to collect a subscription payment from your course users, and automatically give them access to a new course each month you can automate that in ActiveCampaign.

Or, if you want to create a full “points” or “credit” system inside your course area, where a student receives points for finishing courses and spends them to access new material, ActiveCampaign will make it happen (automatically).

Online course creators should be flocking to ActiveCampaign

This isn’t a sales pitch.

It’s common sense.

If you have a marketing automation tool that can automate your email list building, nurturing funnels, sales funnels and the recurring revenue portion of your business with online courses… why would you not choose to use it for all of your online business needs?

Using online course data to tailor your marketing

Finally, we come full circle. ActiveCampaign works with plugins like AccessAlly and uses tags to give permission to your online courses. And you can use these same tags to further personalize your email marketing.

For example: Joe and Zelda both bought courses from you.

  • Joe bought a course about gardening. He has the “gardening course” tag.
  • Zelda bought a course about no-waste living. She has the “no-waste living course” tag.

As you come out with new products and courses, you can create marketing campaigns based on those tags—so you know that you can send a sales email about new gardening stuff to people like Joe and get consistently better results.

Because you’ve identified it’s already something that he cares about.

It’s the benefit of using ActiveCampaign in as many areas of your business as possible—especially high-traffic, important areas like your online courses.

The more you can connect with your clients—and “remember” the information with ActiveCampaign, the more you can personalize each interaction you have with them.

The important thing is to help them and show up when they need you most.

Start with automating your online courses, and go on from there.

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